The 10-lap dash does more than just set the grid for Sunday afternoon; who mastered it and who needs more time to figure it out?
The 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was the second year of the Tissot Superpole Race (TSR) and with that, another opportunity comes to analyse who has got the 10-lap sprint nailed. With just ten laps to sort out WorldSBK honours and a special tyre at the disposal that is made for this race, it always adds drama. However, how important is this race? Studies show that, across both 2019 and 2020, it’s vitally important and that it can contribute hugely to the title race.
Four riders were able to claim victory this year in the Superpole Race that opens Sunday's World Superbike day: Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) and teammate Michael van der Mark. Four other riders achieved a podium in this event, with them being Michael Rubén Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN), Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) and American rookie Garret Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team).
Well, it will come as no surprise that six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea – who took the most victories in the race this year – is at the top of the standings. He found a rich vein here to underline his dominance in the rounds, pocket points and, incidentally, expand his incredible record of victories. A victory in the Superpole Race means adding 12 points, and the Northern Irishman has finished accumulating 83 this year after winning five races - four of them consecutive at the start of the Championship - in addition to two second places and a final fifth position in Estoril.
But this form comes from 2019, when Rea finished the season with a flurry of two Superpole Race wins. However, in comparison, Rea has increased his effectiveness in this event compared to 2019, when, in a season with 12 Superpole Races, he won six times and added 119 points. This year he has come very close to those figures… although he had four races less! Rea’s his new teammate Alex Lowes has shone much less: a single podium (in 2019 he added 5) and a total of 35 points.
It's clear that WorldSBK’s most successful rider is also the most successful in the 10-lap dash. His main rival for the title, rookie Scott Redding, added 56 points in the Superpole Race after scoring in all of them and achieving a victory (in Teruel). Not bad for a newcomer in the format, but those 27 points less than the Champion are crucial for a title contender. Although Redding was the only rider, along with Rea, who scored points in each of these races, it could be read that of the 55 points that distanced him from the crown at the end of the season, almost half escaped in these races.
His 2020 teammate, Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing- Ducati), ended up taking third place overall, but it was not thanks to a special performance in the Superpole Race, where he added just 32 points without wins or rostrums. The Welshman thus paid for his problems to reach the first rows in the Superpole on Saturday, certainly crucial in a 10-lap race, but he did stand out by climbing positions, both here and in Race 1. He recovered so much that he ended up taking the Hyundai N-Spired Rider Award that valued this aspect of racing.
Van der Mark and Razgatlioglu also took advantage of the TSR; the Pata Yamaha duo already shone in this race in 2019, but this year, they’ve improved their performance further. The Dutchman has added 48 points thanks to his 5 podiums, including the victory at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which would ultimately be his only win of 2020. Toprak clinched three podiums and accumulated 37 points in these eight races, with a high end to the party at the Estoril event, where he won Race 1 and then the TSR ahead of Garret Gerloff and van der Mark. Although it scores less than a conventional race, it is valued for any other purpose as one more race, both in terms of record and prestige, with it being Yamaha’s first ever 1-2-3 in WorldSBK.
Redding and Gerloff exemplify the debutants of the 2020 season who have known how to shine in the shorter race, but they have been the only ones: neither Gerloff’s teammate Federico Caricasulo, Chilean Max Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) or the returning Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) managed to score points in these races.
The other two manufacturers of the Championship with official teams, Honda and BMW, have a pending issue in the Superpole Race. Team HRC duo, Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam, added 15 and 8 points respectively, without wins or podiums – although Bautista did take the Honda to the front for the very first time before crashing out of the Catalan Superpole Race. Looking at the glass half full, an improvement can be seen in this area, since last year none of the three Honda riders made it to the top nine in Superpole Race. Undoubtedly, the efforts of the Japanese factory with an official team and the appearance of the new CBR1000RR-R SP Fireblade have begun to bear fruit, and maybe 2021 will see them flourish further.
As for BMW, it’ll have to do more. Best representative, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), closes the list of drivers who have been able to score this year, with a total of 14 points. His best classification in the TSR was sixth position, that he repeated three times at the start of 2020. Teammate Eugene Laverty failed to score points in these races, with a best of 11th in Barcelona. The arrival of Michael van der Mark for 2021, and confirmation of a satellite team, should help the German brand to establish itself not only in the Superpole Race but in the Championship set too.
Top 10 of the Tissot Superpole Race standings:
1.) Jonathan Rea (83 points)
2.) Scott Redding (54)
3.) Michael van der Mark (48)
4.) Toprak Razgatlioglu (37)Rubén Rinaldi (20)
9.) Garret Gerloff (18)
10. Alvaro Bautista (15)
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